The quarterly reports cover the counties of Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson and Paulding and are updates to the annual West Georgia Regional Outlook presented by the center each fall at the Economic Forecast Breakfast.
“We’re still doing better as a region than last year,” said Dr. Joey Smith, UWG associate professor of economics and director of the UWG Center for Business and Economic Research. “This time last year, the region had unemployment at 10.3 percent. It’s now 9.7 percent. We do have a substantially larger work force now.”
Regional sales tax revenues climbed to $224 million last year, up from $200 million in 2009, but still down from the peak of $245 million reached in 2006.
“Douglas County experienced the largest decline in sales tax revenue in the region, dropping from $76 million in 2006 to $43 million in 2009,” the report said.
None of the counties has regained the sales tax levels posted in 2006, according to the report.
Local sales tax figures include 1 percent each of local option sales tax, special purpose local option sales tax and educational local option sales tax. All counties in the region impose all three taxes.
Property values continue to be a problem, according to the update, with all five counties reporting declining property tax digests. Peak assessments occurred in 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, assessed values in the region dropped by more than $2 billion, or 13.36 percent.
“As new transactions in the real estate markets continue, and new comparables become available to local assessors, the property tax digest for West Georgia is going to continue to fall,” the report said. “As a result, local officials will be faced with increasingly more difficult fiscal options in future years.”
Unemployment continues to be a problem in the West Georgia region, with all five county rates above the national average. As of July, only two of the counties, Coweta and Paulding, were below the state rate of 10.3 percent. Carroll County showed the greatest improvement from July, 2011, with the number of unemployment claims down 20 percent.
The unemployment rate for the West Georgia region stood at 9.7 percent in July, which is up from 9.5 percent in June, but down 0.6 percent from July, 2011.
Four of the regional counties, Carroll, Coweta, Haralson and Paulding, saw job growth over the past year. The main drag on overall employment continues to be in the government sector, down 1.8 percent. On the other hand, manufacturing employment expanded by 4.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2011.
“The unemployment rate is rising at about the same rate as new people entering the work force,” Smith said. “It’s because we’re not quite absorbing all those people that we’re seeing unemployment creeping up. New people entering the work force haven’t been able to find jobs and they’re still looking.”
Some improvement was shown in regional home building activity, with single-family housing permits up 8.5 percent in the first seven months of this year, compared with the same period last year.
The report cites several new projects, business expansions and other developments have helped the regional economy:
• Opening of a Carrollton Olive Garden restaurant, Chandler’s Furniture and Mattress in Villa Rica and Pop’s Smokehouse and Grill in Whitesburg.
• A 160-unit apartment complex now under construction near University of West Georgia.
• UWG Campus construction projects include a new School of Nursing building and a $26 million housing/dining complex.
• Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton completed a $61 million upgrade of its emergency department and short stay unit.
• The long-awaited opening of the VA clinic is scheduled for late September.
• The multi-use conference complex (The Newnan Centre) is slated for completion in late 2012.
• The Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Newnan accepted its first patients in August.
• A $200 million technology and corporation business park is being planned in Douglas County, which will be known as Riverside at Sweetwater Creek, and will include 2.5 million square feet of developed space.
• Construction of a new downtown conference center in Douglasville continues, with an early 2013 estimate completion.
• Arbor Place mall has added new stores, Ashley Stewart and the soon-to-open H&M Store, to replace Yankee Candle.
• The proposed Haralson County recreation center is closer to fruition as the construction bidding process is now under way.
• Buchanan Furniture and More recently opened in Haralson County;
• Paulding County has attracted new employment with the announced expansion of MG International, an auto parts manufacturer, adding 30 jobs.
• New conveyor systems manufacturer, Interroll, expected to all 60 jobs to Paulding’s employment base.
The complete regional update can be found online at www.westga.edu/econ/index_13140.php.